Facts about Little Richard
Little Richard Biography
Little Richard helped define the wild side of early rock and roll with his uptempo tunes, sexualized lyrics, and outrageous onstage behavior.
Richard Penniman grew up singing gospel and blues, earning his nickname of “Little Richard” for his precocious performances as a boy. He began recording in the early 1950s. His song “Tutti Frutti” (1955), with its opening line, “A-wop-bom-aloo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom,” became his first big hit and remained his signature tune. The song was Little Richard in a nutshell: runaway piano, exuberant screams, bawdy innuendo and a stylized preciousness.
He followed with a string of hits, including “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” He also established the flamboyant Little Richard look, with slick curls and an extra-thin mustache.
He abruptly quit the music business in 1957 and attended Bible college, but returned to rock after releasing The King of Gospel Singers (1962, produced by Quincy Jones).
During the 1970s his career waned, but he made a comeback in the 1980s, with the song “Great Gosh A Mighty” and appearances in TV commercials and children’s shows (including Jim Henson‘s The Muppets). His new career included children’s music (“Itsy Bitsy Spider”) and duets with Bono and U2, Elton John and others.
Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with its very first class in 1986.